'Thai variant' detected in UK

'Thai variant' detected in UK

No evidence it causes more severe disease

Shoppers walk through an arcade in Bedford, England, on Monday, as the UK plans to reopen to visitors. (Photo: Bloomberg)
Shoppers walk through an arcade in Bedford, England, on Monday, as the UK plans to reopen to visitors. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Health authorities in England have reported cases of a new Covid-19 variant that was first detected in Thailand among people who had arrived from Egypt.

Public Health England (PHE) in a report updated on Thursday said there had been 109 cases of the new variant, coded C.36.3, found in England.

PHE did not give it a name but it was quickly dubbed the "Thai variant" by the UK mass media, a description Thai authorities immediately rejected as wrong. 

"The C.36.3 variant was first detected in Thailand, in cases who had travelled from Egypt," the  PHE report said.

"There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective," it said.

Details remained sketchy as the PHE was still investigating and carrying out lab tests on the new variant, one of many reported by the agency.

The Express newspaper quoted a PHE spokeswoman as saying: "All appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including additional contact tracing and targeted testing.

"Where cases have been identified, additional follow-up of cases, testing of contacts and if required targeted case finding will limit its spread," she said.

Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, said the agency was looking into the report and opposed the use of the description "Thai variant".

A preliminary check had found the new strain was brought into Thailand by travellers from Egypt who were quarantined after arrival.

"In principle, the origin was in Egypt. So it could not be called the Thai variant. It should be called the Egypt variant," Dr Supakit said.

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